• Published 1st Nov 2014
  • 20,636 Views, 1,634 Comments

A New Sun Rises - CommissarAJ



Sunset Shimmer has never needed anyone or anything - she had her magic, she had her ambition, and she had intellect. Others just stood in her way or held her down. So what do you do when your plans for world domination fall through?

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Act VI-III

By the time Saturday came around, my sense of trepidation had long since subsided. Today was not going to be a horrid repeat of the experiences of my youth, and I knew that because I had faith in my friends. Unless Pinkie Pie had somehow managed to fill her home to capacity with every clown from here to the western coast, I was confident I could handle it. Plus, I had my own surprises for the day, with confirmation from Twilight Sparkle that she would be coming through the portal to join the party.

Just the thought of seeing the surprise on my friends’ faces when Twilight arrived was enough to put me in a good mood when I awoke Saturday morning. Just because it was my birthday didn’t mean I couldn’t give something back.

With Pinkie Pie’s ‘Super Fantastic Surprise Birthday Party for Sunset Shimmer’ scheduled for the afternoon at her place, I had the morning to make any last second preparations. I still had no idea why Pinkie insisted on still calling it a surprise party, but that was what she had printed on all the invites. At least she was having fun with it.

A small part of me was even beginning to feel excited for the big event. The slumber party during the ordeal with the Dazzlings had been the only real party I had attended since coming through the magic portal, so my experience with them were limited. Even though I had been crowned Princess of the Fall Formal on three occasions, I never paid too much attention to the actual event, beyond a few dances to keep up appearances.

I pictured something involving a lot of music, a lot of dancing, a lot of pictures, and enough food to sate a dragon.

However, a party proved to not be the only surprise I had in store for the day. It was just before noon when Celestia announced that she wanted to take me to the mall so I could pick out a new phone. Having felt disconnected from the world after turning my old phone into an expensive paperweight thanks to my mishandled experiments, I jumped at her generosity. It should have occurred to me sooner that Celestia didn’t just suggest things out of the blue for no good reason.

But what did I care? I got a new phone for my birthday, which become the sole focus of my attention during the entire car ride back from the mall.

“And now if the stars are all aligned, I should be able to restore my contact lists from the online back-ups,” I mused out loud as I played with my new phone.

“I still remember when contact lists were kept in a little black book that you carried in your coat pocket,” Celestia remarked, her lips curling in amusement. “You kids have it so lucky these days.”

“Oh, believe me: I fully understand the luxury I’ve got here. Back in Equestria, we don’t have anything like these. Most folks had to rely on our equivalent of the postal service, which at least had the small advantage in that our mailmen can fly. If I wanted to write to the Princess, however, I had to use a special enchanted tome, and it’s not as though you could just drive down to the mall to pick one of those up.”

After a few more taps and waiting for my phone to download the relevant data, I was soon reconnected to the social lifeblood of adolescence known as the internet. My first order of business was to log into my MyStables account to announce to the world of my triumphant return.

‘The Sunset Shimmer Show returns to the air! Same Sunset time, same Sunset channel!’

“Thanks again for the new phone.”

“You’re more than welcome,” Celestia replied.

“First a home, then a second chance, and now this? I can’t help but feel like you’re spoiling me,” I admitted. While it was certainly fun to be spoiled, I couldn’t help but recall that my old way of thinking was, in part, due to being given so much privilege. I worried about falling into my old way of thinking if I started being given everything rather than earning it.

For her part, Celestia found my remarks more amusing than anything. “It’s your birthday: you’re entitled to a bit of spoiling. Besides, I feel better knowing that I have a way of keeping in touch with you.”

My older, more cynical way of thinking would’ve interpreted that as ‘keeping tabs’ rather than ‘keeping in touch,’ but the wiser me recognized her real intentions. She cared about me, so naturally she’d want a way so that we could easily communicate, much like my old magic journal kept me in touch with the Princess. And I, too, preferred having a lifeline as well: I was no longer so proud as to think that a phone call for help was beneath me.

“Plus, I get the feeling I’m going to be wanting to take a lot of pictures today.”

“Nothing too scandalous, I hope.”

I rolled my eyes as Celestia chuckled under her breath. “Well obviously I won’t post those ones online,” I joked.

Just then my phone buzzed in my hands, chiming the factory-default melody as I had yet to download any new ringtones. The fact that I had yet to do so was the clearest indication on my other-worldly origins.

Checking my messages, I was pleasantly surprised to see who the first to respond was.

Twilight Sparkle: You’re back! You’re still using the same number, right?

I smirked and snickered to myself before typing in a quick response.

Sunset: If this were the wrong number, I wouldn’t be able to message you back telling you that :)

Twilight Sparkle: Oh. Right, of course. I knew that.

Twilight Sparkle: Any big plans for the weekend?

Sunset: Nothing fancy. Hanging out with friends, finishing up some school assignments. You?

Twilight Sparkle: I don’t mean to brag, but guess who’s going to be spending the day at the Canterlot University library researching 6th century dynasties?

Twilight Sparkle: The answer is me, by the way.

Sunset: Try not to hit the books too hard, okay?

Twilight Sparkle: I would never mistreat a book. Oh. You meant that as an idiom. I really need to keep remembering that.

Sunset: At least your catching on faster these days.

Twilight Sparkle: *You’re

Were it anyone else, I would’ve rolled my eyes, but for some reason I found myself chuckling instead as I read over my friend’s messages. I wondered if she had missed our little chats as much as I had.

“Already messaging with Twilight, I take it?” Celestia commented. No doubt she noticed my glowing smile, which I have been told I tend to wear whenever I texted with Twilight.

“I’m getting too predictable,” I remarked, sharing in Celestia’s amusement.

When the car lurched to a halt, I glanced up from my phone and saw that we had arrived home. Before I could hop out, however, Celestia gave me that concerned look that heralded one of our all-too-frequent heart-to-heart talks. I knew a lot of people who complained about parents being ‘too nosey,’ but I still needed all the help I could get and I wasn’t about to turn any of it away. Plus, she just bought me a phone and put it under her own plan so she had earned the right to pry however she wanted.

“I take it Twilight wasn’t invited to your birthday party?” she asked.

“I just… I already invited Princess Twilight to come to the party,” I explained since Celestia knew the answer to her question already. “Introducing her to my other friends is one thing, but an alternate-dimension version of herself? That might crack her brain a little bit.”

“I know that protecting Equestria is important to you, and lacking any real knowledge on your homeland, I have to trust your judgement, but at the same time, it’s becoming more and more obvious that all this compartmentalizing is a disaster waiting to happen. I don’t need to know much about magic to know that a house built upon so many lies will inevitably come crashing down.”

She was right, of course; painfully so. Since stating that was redundant at this point, I opted to continue stewing in silence until she opted to continue the dialogue. What could I say to that? I had never intended for things to get this far. Twilight Sparkle was a shy and soft-spoken bookworm: I never expected her to fall so completely for this friendship.

Or myself for that matter.

Every week she was drawing closer to figuring out the source of her anomalous sensor readings, and if nothing else, I needed to protect her from that. Magic in this world didn’t behave like it did in Equestria, and even in my homeland, it was dangerous if handled by an inexperienced person. There was no telling what kind of damage could be inflicted if Twilight used her scientific knowledge to try and dissect the magical energies in the portal.

“I haven’t said much on the matter because I didn’t think it was appropriate to try and force you to do something you were uncomfortable with,” Celestia continued. “I have faith that you’ll be able to figure this out at your own pace, but now I’m beginning to worry that you might be avoiding the issue.”

I sighed to myself, wringing the back of my neck with one hand as I wrestled with my thoughts. “I’ll… I’ll figure something out after the party. I’ll have a lot less on my plate then,” I offered up as a consolation.

“You have something very special with Twilight Sparkle. It’s worth preserving,” Celestia reminded me.

“I know, I know,” I groaned in disappointment, mostly at myself. “Hopefully this won’t ruin the party for me. I’d hate for Pinkie to have gone through all this effort just for me to be a wet blanket.”

“I have a feeling that won’t be an issue.”

“I’ll just have to remember to act sufficiently surprised,” I said, hoping a bit of levity would brighten my spirits. After exiting the car, just as we reached the front door, my phone buzzed again with a new message. “Heh, Pinkie’s asking if I’m all set for the ‘big surprise party.’” I was still chuckling to myself as we headed inside. “Like, seriously… what does Pinkie think she’s going to accomplish if she keeps warning me.”

That was when I turned the next corner and was greeted by a faceful of confetti and the wail of a party horn.

“Surprise! Happy birthday! ” came the bellowing cheer.

Surprise didn’t even begin to describe what I felt as I took in the sight before me. The entire living room, as well as what I could see in the rooms beyond, had been decorated with balloons, banners, and all other manners of festivities. The furniture had been pushed to make space for snack tables and there was no mistaking an entire DJ table that had been set up on the far side. Most stunning, however, was the fact that it wasn’t just Pinkie Pie and my friends standing in the center of the room, but the dozens of Canterlot High students who stood behind them and had joined in on the initial cheer.

Just from a cursory glance I could see the familiar faces of Flash Sentry, Lyra, Bon-Bon, Sandalwood, and Trixie. It looked as though half of my grade had been stuffed into the house.

It wasn’t until Photo Finish raced to the front of the crowd and snapped a picture of me that my brain kicked back into life.

“Pinkie, what’s—I don’t understand. You said the party was this afternoon at your place.”

“I wanted this to be a surprise party,” Pinkie explained with her usual air of carefree innocence. “Since you already knew a party was coming, I just asked myself, ‘what would Sunset do in this situation?’”

“Misdirection, of course,” I muttered under my breath.

“I learned from the best!”

“What about the others?” I asked as my gaze panned to the scores of students across the room.

While I hadn’t been against the idea of inviting more people to the party, as evident by the fact that I had extended an offer to Flash, I never imagined Pinkie could get so many people together under one roof. Were her parties that good that people didn’t care who or what it was about?

“Believe it or not, when word got out that Pinkie was planning a party for you, folks started pouring out of the woodworks to offer their help,” Applejack explained. “Some of them brought food, some helped with the decorations, and of course you got Vinyl over there on the music.”

One of my classmates, Bon-Bon, stepped forward, offering a sincere smile mixed with a undertone of humility. “After the whole incident with the Dazzlings, we all began to realize that you really have changed, and that we haven’t been the most… charitable to you. We wanted to make it up to you, and to say that we forgive you, too.”

I had always been a proponent that the students of Canterlot High deserved whatever form of justice they deemed fit after everything I had put them through. From my perspective, becoming the least popular thing at school since the ‘mystery meat casserole’ was a small price to pay in order to build my life back up. Things at school had improved a lot since the Battle of the Bands, to the point where I felt that my past deeds were considered, at the very least, water under the bridge.

What I saw now were scores of my peers, joined together in a singular voice to tell me that they were more than just willing to forget the past, but forgive me for it as well. I had spent many nights in bed, dreaming of the day where I’d feel accepted again in my community, but it had always felt like exactly that: a fantasy.

As my brain still churned to process everything that had just happened, Pinkie Pie slid over to stand beside me. She looked to me with an anxious, but hopeful smile: clearly waiting for a final verdict.

“So…” Pinkie began, her voice mirroring the sentiment of her expression, “do you like it?”

I was still scrambling for words, but I knew I had to say something, and quick. In the next ten seconds, either words or tears were going to start pouring out, and I had to make a decision as to which. I eventually just went with the first thing that came to mind.

“It’s perfect.”

“Really?”

“Really.”

Pinkie Pie let out such a delighted squeal that one would think she was the birthday girl. In her defense, planning this party couldn’t have been easy.

“Oh, I’m so super-duper glad to hear that! I was so worried that you might not like it, especially since you kept saying that you didn’t want it to be a big affair. I was leaning towards something small with just the six of us, but then I thought that might be good for one party but it’s not going to do anything to help with your fears of big parties because it wasn’t a small party that hurt, it was a big one!”

Whatever else Pinkie had to say in her hasty diatribe went unnoticed by everyone else at the party. The rest of us were all more fixated on the fact that she had started glowing and was now levitating several feet off the ground. Just like Rainbow Dash a few weeks earlier, Pinkie had just ponied up without any influence from her music.

“Hey, why is everybody staring at me like that? And why am I so high up all of a sudden?” Pinkie asked once she noticed something was amiss.

“Well, you are kinda floating,” Applejack answered.

“Floating? Oh no!” Pinkie gasped. “I didn’t mean for this to happen! It was an accident. Nobody look at me! This is supposed to be Sunset Shimmer’s day! Nobody pay attention to me!”

Unfortunately, since she was glowing and hovering above our heads, the only way she could even attempt to try and mask herself was to pull the magic-extension of her hair out front to hide her face behind. I couldn’t help but stifle a laugh as my friend frantically tried to avoid becoming the center of attention. She was never going to succeed, but it was sweet that she was trying nonetheless.

Luckily for Pinkie, one of us wasn’t too distracted by the floating, magic pony-girl to notice something else of importance.

“Pinkie! Ceiling fan!” Rainbow Dash shouted.

Sure enough, Pinkie glanced up and saw the whirling blades mere inches away from her. “Eek! Somebody grab me! Somebody grab me!”

Sadly, the one thing that she shouldn’t have done—panic—was the exact thing she did. In her flailing, her hair got snatched by one of the blades. The ceiling fan proceeded to spin her about like a sling before pitching her towards me and my friends.

“Raritycatchme!” Pinkie blurted out. A second later, she crashed into her aforementioned friend, leaving both of them sprawled across the floor at my feet.

“Oh my goodness! Are you two okay?” I asked.

Pinkie was quick to spring back to her feet, though whether it because she was unharmed or just driven by her desire to not cause a scene and take away from ‘my day’ remained a mystery.

“I’m okay!” she insisted while giving a thumbs-up. “That was actually kinda fun until the whole ‘crashing into Rarity’ part.”

I offered my hand to Rarity and soon had her back on her feet. “I’m fine as well—more startled than anything, really.”

Now that everyone could breathe a sigh of relief, I turned to my friends and all the other party-goers. “I just want to say right now, thank you all so much for this. So I guess without further ado,” I then grinned and pointed towards Vinyl at her station, “DJ, some music please.”

As a familiar Rainbooms classic belted out over the speakers, we all let out a cheer and got the party rolling. People were dancing and mingling, and somebody had brought that rock band video game and set up at the television. No doubt Rainbow Dash would be facing quite a few challengers over the course of the party. As for myself, I wanted to mingle with the crowd so that I could, at the very least, give my personal thanks to each of them for coming. It wasn’t as difficult a task as I had expected because everybody was eager to chat me up. They all wanted a picture with Sunset Shimmer, which was still hard to believe considering only a few months ago they were more inclined to run in terror than put an arm around me and smile.

After close to an hour of mingling, I had to retreat to the kitchen for a moment in order to quench my parched throat. It was there that I bumped into one party guest that I hadn’t spoken with yet, and had been very curious about doing so.

“Hello there, Trixie,” I greeted.

Hunched over a tray of cupcakes, Trixie hadn’t noticed my arrival until I spoke up, prompting to the girl to spring upright with the half-eaten cake still in her mouth. She finished off what she could as quickly as possible before greeting me with an understandably wary smile.

“H-hello, Sunset. Nice party you have going,” she said, still with pink frosting across her lips.

“Thanks. Now I’ve gotta be honest for a moment, I’m surprised to see you here. I would’ve thought you’d be the last person to volunteer to spend time near me. Did you really offer to help with the party?”

“I did, actually. I brought some snacks,” she explained before directing my attention to a bag of pretzels on a nearby table. When I turned back to her, I expected her to be beaming with her usual sense of pride, but her expression had softened even further to something I never thought possible from her: humility. “Listen, Sunset, I, uh… I know I’ve said and done some things that haven’t been very… charitable to you. I was just so convinced that this whole ‘new you’ was another ruse.”

“Well, to be fair, it’s certainly something the old me would’ve tried at some point,” I replied with the hopes to ease some of her nervousness.

“Exactly! So I think it’s probably good if we just let bygones be bygones and not fuss about who said what—”

“Or who pulled which levers,” I said with a smirk.

“Yes, that too.”

It was a relief to see Trixie had a change of heart, though I doubt it meant seeing the end of her showboating ways. So long as it meant I wouldn’t have to worry about her trying to sabotage any other efforts on my road to redemption, then I was more than happy to let the past stay where it is. Besides, if she was at my party willing to forgive my past deeds, then it’d be rather hypocritical to not extend the same courtesy.

“Let’s start things anew then, shall we?” I suggested before grabbing a cupcake off the tray. “Although, now that I think about it, we do have some guitars and amps here: we could have a little rematch later, if you’re up for the challenge.”

“A rematch, huh?” Trixie replied, her eyes lighting up in excitement. She grinned playfully while stroking at her chin, no doubt with visions of glory filling her head already. “It’s not quite the same audience, but Trixie would be willing to accept such a challenge. But don’t think she’ll go easy on you just because it’s your birthday.”

“Wouldn’t have it any other way.” I gave her a playful punch before continuing on my way. “I’ll go find Rainbow Dash and run it by her, not that she’ll need much convincing.”

Finding my friend was easy enough since one could always count on her being where the party was the liveliest. In fact, I found her with the rest of my close friends, all of whom were excited to finally see me return from my mingling with the other guests. I suspect for them it was like seeing the return of a prodigal son.

“Enjoying yourself so far?” Rarity asked, eager to gauge my opinion.

“Better than I ever imagined,” I replied. “Honestly, I’m not even sure what I was so worked up about anymore.”

“Don’t worry about it,” Rainbow Dash said before giving me a reassuring nudge with her elbow. “Sometimes you just get worked up over nothing. We’ve all been there. Well, I mean, most of us. Not me, of course, because I’m me.”

“Didn’t you have a panic attack in the locker room when you first tried out for the soccer team?” Applejack asked.

“What? No! That’s just ridiculous,” Dash scoffed at the idea. “Like I would ever do something as silly as that.”

“Pretty sure I still have the picture of it on my phone somewhere.”

Applejack pulled out her phone and began searching through its contents. However, the device was promptly snatched from her grasp by her friend.

“You can’t prove anything if you don’t have any evidence!” Dash then led her friend on a merry chase through the house, frantically trying to find the aforementioned picture so that she can delete it. Hopefully the two wouldn’t cause a commotion, but I was smart enough to know not to get between those two.

“Darn it, I needed to tell Rainbow Dash something,” I muttered under my breath. I’d just have to track her down later, I figured. It wasn’t as though she was going to bail on the party any time soon.

In the meantime, I was more than happy to converse with Pinkie, Fluttershy, and Rarity.

“So,” Rarity began while regarding me with a devious look of playfulness about her, “what’s this about personally inviting Flash Sentry to the party?”

Caught by surprise, and made all the more nervous by the way my friend was looking at me, I tensed up and tried to deflect with a ham-fisted excuse. “Oh, him? I just… thought it’d be good for our friendship. I’m allowed to try and be friends with my ex, aren’t I? Totally no other reasons involved.”

I tried to hide my nervousness behind a forced laugh, but it may as well have been transparent for what it was worth. I probably should’ve told her the truth right from the start, but a part of me had wanted to keep Twilight’s arrival a surprise, and I was, if nothing else, stubborn despite all common sense.

“Really now? Are you sure it isn’t because somebody else might be stopping by?” Rarity mused.

Oblivious to the concept of subtext, Pinkie jumped and threw both of us off of our game. “Is it Twilight? Did you invite her to come party with us?”

Why couldn’t they just let me have this one gesture? If I told Pinkie now, everybody would know within a half-hour, including Flash. The look of anticipation on my friends’ faces were burning a hole through my will power, and there was no way I was going to be able to withstand the peer pressure.

That was when the doorbell rang.

“Is that the door? Oh, I better go get that!”

I hastily excused myself. Under my breath, I thanked whatever powers that be for saving my butt. In fact, I was even a little excited since it could very well be Twilight at the door, thus saving me from having to hide this any longer. However, when I opened the door, instead of being greeted to the sight of my far-away friend, instead I met somebody much closer to home.

“Lightning Dust!” I blurted without thinking.

“Hey there, birthday girl!” Lightning Dust replied, thankfully mistaking my shock for excitement. “Sorry I’m a little late, but I had to pick up a few things on the way here.”

“What are you—” I stopped myself part-way when the answer hit me square in the head. “Rainbow Dash invited you, didn’t she?”

“Said something about this party needing to be twenty percent cooler,” Lightning explained with a quick shrug of her shoulders at the end. “Not sure where I fit into that numerically, though I’m pretty sure I’m at least thirty-five percent.”

Despite the surprise, I found myself glad to see Lightning at the party. Introducing her to my other friends would liven the party up a little bit. “I’m glad you’re here. Why don’t you come on in, and you can meet the rest of my friends.”

“Actually, I’ve got a few things in my car I’ll need to get.”

“Need a hand with it?” I asked. I wish I could say my offer was completely altruistic, but it kept me from having to face more questions from Rarity and Pinkie for a few more minutes. Lightning accepted and we headed to her car, whereupon she popped open the trunk to reveal a pair of large baskets filled with fruit of all shapes and sizes. “I think we’re pretty good for snacks, actually,” I remarked.

“It’s better than that,” Lightning said. Her face was beaming with excitement, which made me all the more curious. She unloaded the baskets and set them aside before reaching in and taking out something very large and wrapped in a woolen blanket. “You can have the honour of carrying this,” she said before dropping it into my awaiting arms.

The sheer weight took me by surprise, almost causing me to double over before I could adjust to it. “Holy cheese, what is this?” I said in disbelief. It was long and narrow, but far heavier than I could’ve possibly expected.

“My claymore.”

“Seriously?”

Lightning just pulled back some of the blanket, revealed the silvered hilt and leather-wrapped grip of the medieval weapon. “Pretty cool, huh?”

“And the fruit?”

“Up for some real life fruit ninja?”

I was soon grinning just as wide as Lightning. “This is going to be so cool!” I exclaimed. “Come on! We can set up in the backyard.”

It took a lot of willpower not to giggle like the over-excited school girl that I was as the two of us carried all the supplies into the backyard. Lightning had even brought along a makeshift wooden stand so it was safe to assume that this wasn’t the first time she’s pulled this party trick. It didn’t take long for others at the party to notice what we were setting up, and we soon had ourselves an audience.

“Woah! Is that a sword?” Dash said after worming her way to the front of the crowd. She was soon joined by my other close friends, all of whom were equally curious.

“It sure is,” Lightning answered. She took the sword from its wrappings, revealing the hefty blade for everyone to see.

“By the way, this is Lightning Dust,” I introduced her to my friends and classmates. “You already know Rainbow Dash, and with her are Applejack, Rarity, Fluttershy, and Pinkie Pie.”

“Heh, cool cat ears,” Lightning remarked.

“C-cat ears?” I repeated. It took me a moment to realize that she was referring to Pinkie’s pony-form ears, which she must’ve mistaken for a clothing accessory.

“These aren’t cat ears, they’re—” Pinkie Pie’s words were cut-off abruptly as Applejack slapped her hands over her friend’s mouth.

“Technically, they’re pony ears,” Applejack explained. “Y-you know, because we all go to Canterlot High and stuff.”

Somehow, none of our behavior or nervous grins raised Lightning Dust’s suspicions. “Oh right, I remember now,” she said with a nod of her head. “Bunch of you guys were wearing those in the bleachers during that last game we played at your school.”

Once again, it was all too easy to just let Lightning Dust believe the lie that she reached on her own power, rather than having to go through a long-winded explanation of other-worldly magics. It was a conversation that would have to occur at some point, but I wanted it to be at a better venue than my birthday party. The last thing I needed, especially now, was a freaked out teenager armed with a claymore.

And speaking of giant, unwieldy swords, we soon got the stand set up and Lightning Dust balanced the first offering, a cantaloupe, upon it.

“I think the birthday girl should have the first honour,” Lightning said. She rested the tip of the blade against the lawn and leaned it forward in offering to me.

Just as I was about to accept, though, my phone began to buzz. Given that almost everyone I knew was at this party, that narrowed down who it could potentially be.

“Give me a moment, I’ve got to check this message,” I insisted as I grabbed my phone and headed off to find some privacy. As I had expected, it was from Twilight Sparkle, who had sent me a picture of herself at the library, holding a huge book with the biggest grin across her face. The accompanying message read, ‘they just got the 8th edition! Best day ever!’

I wasn’t sure exactly what book she had or why the eighth edition made it so much more special, but she was happy about it and that was all that mattered.

Sunset: Having a good time, I take it?

Twilight Sparkle: I wish I could live here forever.

Sunset: Where would you sleep?

Twilight Sparkle: On a pile of books.

Twilight Sparkle: Have you met up with your friends yet?

It was hard not to feel a pang of guilt, realizing that I was in the midst of a huge party with one of my best friends completely unaware of its existence. I wished there was some rational explanation or justification for what I did, but the truth was a lot simpler: I panicked because I was scared.

Scared of losing control. Scared of being known. Scared of all the unknown possibilities that came along with upsetting the delicate balancing game that my life had become. So I did what most people did when they were scared, and fell into the old habits that were comforting and made me feel secure. Lies kept me in control and allowed me to dictate the flow of events, which meant I could remain prepared. Some people stress-ate—I stress-lied.

Sunset: Not yet. Probably going to meet with them later.

“Hey, Sunset!” Lightning Dust’s voice snapped my focus away from my phone just as she arrived at my side. “Stop hiding in your phone; you’re keeping your adoring fans waiting.”

Before I could even answer, she had plucked my phone from my grasp and dragged me back to the others. She had a point, and I soon convinced myself that I shouldn’t be letting outside issues distract me from the party. It’d be rude to my guests, after all. Once we returned, Rainbow Dash handed me the sword.

“I still can’t believe people actually went to war with something this heavy,” I grunted at first. I struggled to keep the weapon held aloft as I took my first steps towards my cantaloupe adversary.

“It was used by people who consider throwing telephone poles a national sport,” Lightning remarked. “Now you gonna be okay with that?”

“Don’t worry, I got this!”

I didn’t.

Since using a sword came about as intuitive to me as baseball, knitting, and anything else that required good hand-eye coordination, entrusting me with a sword ranked high on the list of bad ideas. I, however, didn’t care for a second because I was just looking forward to cleaving a melon in half, which was going to be awesome in every sense of the word.

Or at least, it would’ve been if I hadn’t swung like a blind oaf, missing the target altogether. The sheer weight of the sword and my haphazard form meant the only thing I hit was the ground after the swinging blade pulled me off balance and I fell over.

“You okay there, Sunny?” Lightning asked.

I answered with a simple thumbs up.

“Good.” Lightning then turned to the other party guests. “Please tell me somebody was recording that.”

As certain as Princess Celestia enjoyed her cake triple-layered and with extra strawberries, a half dozen of my friends and classmates also gave a thumbs up whilst holding their phones in their other hand. At least I could look forward to having a laugh over my impending internet fame.

While getting back to my feet, my attention was piqued by a sudden hush of silence that fell over the crowd. My curiosity didn’t have to wait long for an answer as I soon found myself standing face-to-face with a frowning Luna. In retrospect, perhaps I should’ve realized that swinging around a medieval weapon in the backyard might upset some people.

“What are you doing?”

“Making fruit salad?” I offered as a paltry excuse.

“Sword,” Luna demanded, hand outstretched.

“I’m sorry,” I murmured in defeat. Reluctantly, though, I surrendered the weapon and stepped back, expecting a lecture to follow.

“I’m very disappointed in you, Sunset Shimmer,” Luna began, her gaze narrowing upon me. “You were holding it all wrong: it’s a sword, not a baseball bat. Now go over there and grab that melon.”

Worry turned into a curious excitement as I heeded her command. Swinging the blade around in a quick flourish, Luna hefted it upright and grasped it firmly with both hands.

“Now throw it at me like you mean it,” she ordered.

Mentally, I weighed my options: at first this sounded a bit risky, but even if she failed, then there’d be enough cell phone video of her getting hit by a cantaloupe to erase my earlier mishap from memory. It was a win-win for me, regardless of the outcome, so I pitched the cantaloupe with all my might. There was only the briefest flicker of reflected light as the claymore scythed through the air, capitalized by a heavy ‘thump’ as the melon split in half, with the two pieces sailing past Luna and landing a few feet behind her.

The crowd of partygoers erupted into a cheer as Luna hefted her sword above her head.

“There can be only one!”

“Where did you learn to do that?” I remarked in a mixture of disbelief and awe.

Resting the blade upon her shoulder, Luna made little attempt to hide her smug sense of amusement. “Let’s just say Canterlot University offers better alternatives to ‘basket weaving 101’,” she answered. “Now come over here, I’ll show you how to do it properly.”

After a few helpful pointers, we were soon taking turns hacking apart all manners of melons, pineapples, and squashes. It was equal parts destructive and delicious. Soon, I had scores of pictures on my phone, half of which were of Dash showing off. After about an hour or so, we ran out of things to dismember, and despite Rainbow Dash’s repeated petitions, we decided against finding other food items to serve up as sacrifices.

Once the bulk of the party transitioned back inside, I was reminded of the idea I wanted to bring up with Rainbow Dash.

“Hey, Trixie is up for a guitar rematch if you’re interested,” I proposed to my friend.

As expected, she needed little convincing. “A rematch? Ha! Didn’t think she’d want to lose again so soon,” Dash said with a trifling laugh. “You want to join in too? We could make it a free-for-all and see who the best guitarist is. I mean, as long as you don’t mind losing on your birthday.”

“Oh, it is so on now!”

We headed back into the living room, where my friends had set up our instruments for the inevitable rock performance.

“You both play guitar?” Lightning asked, having overheard part of our conversation. “Heh, this party is getting better and better by the moment.”

“You play any instrument?” I asked.

My mohawked friend shook her. “Nah. With all the early morning soccer practices, I’ve never had the time for that.”

“Well prepare to have your mind blown by my awesome shredding skills,” Dash boasted while giving Lightning a friendly nudge with her elbow.

Before I could grab a guitar, however, the doorbell rang once more. As I went to go answer it, I started getting a nagging feeling at the back of mind. It was as if my subconscious was trying to remind me of something critical that the rest of me had yet to realize. It wasn’t until I opened the door and saw Twilight Sparkle staring back at me did the answer finally hit me in the face.

Twilight Sparkle: the Princess of Friendship.

And the girl who looked identical to one of Lightning Dust’s classmates.

“Happy birthday Sun—”

She didn’t get to finish her sentence as I gave a measured response of quiet dignity. In other words, I shrieked like a startled newborn and slammed the door in her face.

“I heard a scream; is everything okay?” Lightning’s voice perked up from behind me.

This time, I managed to keep my reaction contained despite my heart tightening in my chest. “It’s good!” I replied with the best reassuring smile I could muster on short notice. “I just… uh, gotta take this outside. Could you let Rainbow Dash know that she can start without me?”

No doubt my behaviour struck her as odd, but Lightning must’ve felt inquiring would’ve been impolite given the venue. “Okay then, but try not to take too long or you’ll miss all the fun.”

Once Lightning Dust had ventured back into the living room, I opened the front door again and stepped outside. Somehow, I had to explain myself to Twilight.

Assuming I didn’t resort to more lying.

“H-hey, Twilight! Crazy seeing you here,” I greeted, followed by a sheepish chuckle.

My friend raised a puzzled eyebrow. “You invited me, remember?” she replied. “Is something wrong? You look nervous.”

“What? Me, nervous? Where would you ever get such a ridiculous idea as that?”

Suffice to say, Twilight was not convinced by my reassurances. “Are you sure? If there’s something troubling you, you can talk to me about it. Is it the party?”

“Party? What party?”

“The party I can see right over there,” Twilight answered as she pointed to the nearby living room window. One would’ve had to have been blind to not notice what was going on inside, and once Rainbow Dash started playing guitar, only the dead could remain oblivious. No surprise that she was playing ‘Awesome as I Wanna Be.’

In hindsight, I have no idea what I was trying to accomplish by denying the party’s existence. I panicked and grasped at whatever straws I could that may have kept Twilight at bay. If the conversation persisted any longer, I was liable to crash-tackle her before letting her inside.

“O-oh, right. That party.” I was at the end of my rope: all the golden words in my purse have been spent, save for the truth. Then again, if anyone could understand my dilemma, it’d be the only other Equestrian present. “You see, the thing is—”

I never got to finish my sentence, however, as a flash of cyan from the living room window drew both of our attention to the party.

That’s when the realization struck. “Oh no, the music!” I gasped.

I raced back to the living room, only to confirm what I had feared: Rainbow Dash had ponied up, and was now shredding a guitar solo while levitating above the cheering crowd; all except Lightning Dust, who was just staring in stunned silence.